One third of NSW drownings from multicultural backgrounds

Safety message: Mark Woods at North Cronulla Beach, which he he grew up visiting, and is now doing research to help prevent beach drownings in multicultural communities. Picture: Geoff Jones
Safety message: Mark Woods at North Cronulla Beach, which he he grew up visiting, and is now doing research to help prevent beach drownings in multicultural communities. Picture: Geoff Jones

More than 80 people died across Australia's beaches in the 90 days of summer this year.

Of the 28 drownings that happened in NSW, one-third where people of multicultural backgrounds.

On the back of such alarming data, a University of NSW student has restated an appeal for help with a study on multicultural beach drownings.

Mark Woods, of Miranda in Sydney's south, has found while many Australians from multicultural backgrounds visited the beach often, they did not know what a rip current was or the purpose of the red and yellow flags.

He has discovered these findings in conversations regarding the survey he is undertaking as part of the UNSW Beach Safety Research Group.

"A lack of knowledge about how to stay safe at the beach could be putting people from multicultural communities at risk of drowning," he told the Leader.

A new campaign by Royal Life Saving NSW is designed to improve water safety awareness among multicultural communities - initially those in the Chinese, Nepalese and Arabic speaking communities.

Data from Royal Life Saving showed 86 deaths across the nation in the 90 days of summer that ended on February 28. Of these, 28 drownings were in NSW, and one-third of the people were from multicultural backgrounds - the vast majority adult men.

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Royal Life Saving said it was also concerning that in the past decade, 312 people who had drowned in NSW were born outside of Australia - 32 per cent of these were young men aged 18 to 34.

Royal Life Saving NSW CEO, Michael Ilinsky, said: "We know that communities are embracing the Australian culture of being in and around water, but some adults come to Australia without the essential knowledge and skills to keep themselves and others safe around water."

The data shows that many people from a multicultural background are drowning in NSW and across Australia.

Mark Woods

He said some people might never have been in the water before or visited a public swimming pool, and some had a fear of water and of drowning.

"These are challenges that we are working with communities to overcome by providing opportunities to learn swimming and water safety skills and knowledge, which will help everyone to enjoy the water safely," he said.

The separate campaign by Mr Woods and UNSW is also targeting Nepalese speaking communities, along with Indian, Sri Lankan, Bangladeshi, Bhutanese, Afghan and Pakistani.

"The stats provided by Royal Life Saving highlight the need for the project I am working on. The data shows that many people from a multicultural background are drowning in NSW and across Australia," Mr Woods said.

"Currently, there is very little scientific research focusing on why this may be happening. The project I am working on will provide this critical missing data by revealing how people from multicultural backgrounds use the beach and understand beach safety. This information can hopefully be used to guide future education and safety campaigns."

Mr Woods has been calling for St George and Sutherland Shire community groups to help get the word out there to potential survey participants, who can fill out the survey questions online.

"The survey is still open so people from these communities can still fill it in and help us prevent drownings at our beaches," Mr Woods said.

The survey is at bit.ly/3sKcXQc, or get in touch with the UNSW Beach Safety Research Group at beachsafetyresearch.com/contact-us

Scan this QR code to take the survey.

Scan this QR code to take the survey.

This story One third of NSW drownings from multicultural backgrounds first appeared on St George & Sutherland Shire Leader.